Category Archives: POLITICS

INEC fixes date for 2019 presidential election

INEC fixes date for 2019 presidential election

Nigeria’s electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced February 16, 2019, as the date for the 2019 presidential election.

The announcement was made far ahead of time “in order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by the Commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders,” INEC said on Thursday in a statement posted on its website.

“To that extent, the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections will hold on Saturday 2nd March 2019.”

The choice of February 16, 2019, according to the Commission, was necessitated by the need to ensure certainty about the election timetables.

“Our democracy is maturing and the Commission believes that there should be certainty with regard to the timetable for elections,” it said.

“For instance, in the United States, general elections always hold on the second PRESS Tuesday of November in the election year In Ghana, it’s the 7th of December of the election year, while in other places like Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Costa Rica and Switzerland, the dates are also known in advance.”

INEC announces dates for 2019 general elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has announced dates for 2019 general elections.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, the electoral commission said it was making the announcements well ahead “in order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by the Commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders”.

“To that extent, the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections will hold on Saturday 2nd March 2019.”

The commission also announced that 23 of its electoral officers being prosecuted for various electoral offences will be placed on half salary and will not report for duty pending the determination of their respective cases by the court.

Read the full statement:

Gentlemen of the Press,

You are all welcome to yet another briefing, which is in fulfillment of our pledge to regularly brief the public on the Commission’s activities.

1. Our democracy is maturing and the Commission believes that there should be certainty with regard to the timetable for elections. For instance, in the United States, general elections always hold on the second PRESS Tuesday of November in the election year. In Ghana, it’s the 7th of December of the election year, while in other places like Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Costa Rica and Switzerland, the dates are also known in advance.

In Nigeria, the constitution provides for elections to hold not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the end of the incumbent’s tenure. In order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by the Commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders, the Commission has decided to fix the date for the National Elections for the third Saturday in February of the election year, followed by State elections two weeks later. To that extent, the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections will hold on Saturday 2nd March 2019.

2. The Commission has also received a Report from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) of the Federation, informing us that 23 Electoral Officers indicted over the investigation into the 10th December Rivers Re-run elections have been charged to court. The Commission has repeatedly said that it will cooperate with security agencies for the prosecution of any of our staff found to have violated the integrity of the electoral process. Accordingly, at our meeting today, the Commission decided to apply the provisions of the INEC Terms and Conditions of Service to all those charged to court, since it constitutes gross misconduct. The penalty for this is interdiction. All the 23 Electoral Officers will be placed on half salary and will not report for duty pending the determination of their respective cases by the court.

3. Ladies and gentlemen, you will recall that last week, we informed you that a decision would be taken this week on the recommendation by the Disciplinary Committee on staff members indicted by the EFCC Report for misconduct during the 2015 General Elections. However, in view of the fact that some of the staff are also among those being prosecuted by the DPP, the Commission has decided to defer its decision on the EFCC Report to enable us reconcile the EFCC/DPP reports.

4. And as part of our routine consultations with our stakeholders, the Commission has decided to hold the next regular quarterly meetings with stakeholders as follows:

A. Tuesday 14th March –Meeting with Political Parties

B. Wednesday 15th March – Meeting with Civil Society Organizations

C. Friday 17th March – Meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).

D. Monday March 21 – Meeting with Media organizations. Our invitations have been sent to the respective stakeholders

5. We wish to assure all Nigerians that the Commission will remain fully committed to the sanctity of the electoral process and will never protect any of its staff, no matter highly placed, found to have violated the provisions of the Electoral Act and our guidelines.

Prince Solomon Soyebi

National Commissioner (In charge of South West)

Controversy as INEC updates voters register

Controversy as INEC updates voters register

An assessment of the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to improve its ratings in conducting credible elections in Nigeria has been on the spotlight since April 27 when the umpire commenced the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) across the country to update the national voters’ database which currently has about 70 million registered voters.
The on-going process, which according to the electoral body, will be on until a few months before the 2019 general elections, is meant to capture Nigerians that are just attaining the voting age of 18 years and those who had not registered before or whose names could not be found in the register.

It is also an opportunity for those registered voters who have damaged or lost their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) and those who have not collected it before to do so while those who changed polling units because of movements can have the data updated in their new abodes.

The essence of the exercise is to also create awareness of citizens’ civic responsibility and democratic rights and largely to absorb as many eligible Nigerian voters as possible so that the outcome of elections will reflect the wishes of the majority of the population.
While launching the exercise last month in Abuja, INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu said the commission was ready to expand the country’s voter population and sanitize the election process. He called on whistleblowers to identify and expose any registration of under-aged voters and foreigners while the exercise lasted.

The commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, had earlier announced that necessary logistics had been deployed for the exercise.

He said, “The required personnel and materials for the exercise have been deployed. We have also trained our personnel who are going to be at our various LGA offices. We have tested and deployed our Direct Data Capturing Machine (DDCM) for the exercise to take off nationwide and our National Commissioners have gone out to the respective zones to monitor the registration.”

Claiming successes in the first three days of the exercise, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Adedeji Soyebi said in a release that 57,737 people were registered with 4,913 collected PVCs. He also stated that within the short period, 1,820 individuals applied for transfer of Polling Units (PUs) while 1,117persons sought replacement of their lost or damaged PVCs.”

But if reports from the 36 states and Abuja, where the exercise is taking place in all the 774 local councils are anything to go by, the process may not be as smooth as the commission claimed in the first three days.

With this, the capability of INEC and ability of the political class to mobilize the people with the aim of increasing voter population and reinforce the election process, which is a major pillar of representative democracy, are being called to question.

Some of the complaints trailing the exercise include the failure and inadequate number of the Direct Data Capturing (DCC) machines in many designated points, long distance to registration centres and inability to handle the large number of prospective voters in some areas.

Reports from Anambra where the governorship election will hold next November indicated that major stakeholders, while complaining about some of the hiccups, have appealed to INEC to focus attention on the state because of the nearness of the poll.

Reacting yesterday, the National Chairman of deregistered National Transformation Party (NTP), Emmanuel Mok faulted the exercise saying it lacks the expected awareness and would probably place the northern region ahead of its southern counterpart in terms of voting strength in future elections.

He said the exercise lacked the desired publicity and that “there are no centers other than where INEC is registering people quietly. The way the exercise is going, it would give undue advantage to the north against the south. This was part of our complaints in the previous exercise.”

He described as an aberration, the idea of carrying out the registration at local council secretariats and wondered how the crowd would be controlled “if all the people living in the Eti Osa Local Government decided to travel to the council for registration.”

Mok blamed INEC “for the lack of awareness because it is being funded by government for that purpose. The political parties that could have assisted in this area are no longer been funded by government.”

Also faulting the process, former National Secretary of Labour Party (LP), Kayode Ajulo said there is no adequate awareness for the exercise. According to him, “We complained of inadequate awareness of similar exercise in the past but for this one, there is zero awareness.

“Many Nigerians, particularly those in the south are not aware compared with their counterparts in the north. Some traditional rulers whom I spoke with in Ondo State are ignorant of the registration.”

He also pointed to the issue of weak opposition parties as a factor responsible for the poor awareness, saying that unlike when the ruling APC was in the opposition “there is no longer opposition forces to drive the exercise at present. The APC, because it is in power, is not doing much to ensure people come out to participate in the exercise.”

He claimed he did not observe any on-going registration during his visits across the country but that “INEC should not only be blamed as other stakeholders have their share of the fault.”

However, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State, Adebayo Dayo said the exercise was going on well in the state but that the party is only worried “about information reaching us, and backed with facts, that under-age children are being registered throughout the northern region. INEC should be asked why the double different standard for the South and North in respect to same exercise.”

The party’s national spokesman, Benard Mikko who said they are yet to receive any concrete report on the exercise from field officers and that “we have directed our members and supporters to fully participate.”

Spokesman of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said nothing enthusiastic has been seen regarding the registration because of people’s apathy to anything politics, politicians and election.

According to him, “Nigerians are completely tired of politics because they feel that the present democratic system has not added any value to their living condition. If the exercise continues this way, definitely it will have negative effects on the next election and its credibility.”

He also said the capacity of the current electoral umpire to conduct free, fair and credible election in the country is a suspect as he urged that what the country needs now is to restructure the federation.

In his reaction to the plethora of allegations, spokesman of the electoral body, Rotimi Oyekanmi said “It is wrong for anybody to insinuate that the INEC is deliberately creating hiccups in the ongoing CVR exercise.

“On the contrary, our goal is to create the opportunity for qualified Nigerians, who have just clocked 18 years and all those who did not register in last CVR exercise and have also never registered to do so.

“The exercise will be truly continuous and will only be suspended two months to an election. However, we know that there may be some initial challenges, but they will be tackled gradually as we go along.”

He added, “There are no bottlenecks. But there is a procedure. All an intending registrant needs is some patience. However, where an INEC official has sufficient doubts about the age of an intending registrant, a form of identification to confirm date of birth may be required. This is to prevent an under-age person from registering.”

Oyekanmi also said it is not true that the DDC machines are nit functional or that they are not adequate, stressing, “There are enough machines and efforts are on to redeploy from where they are surplus to locations where they are not enough.”
Speaking on allegations of lack of enough awareness, he said, “The Commission did announce through several media channels ahead of time. Various stakeholders were also informed. This will continue. However, it is also the duty of the political parties to create awareness among their members on the need for them to register.”

He however declared frankly, “There will be no preference for any state because its election is near as there is ample time for eligible Nigerians in Anambra and other states to register.”

National Assembly never complied with FOI Act – Report

A new report, released by a Civil Society Organisation, Right to Know, says ministries, departments and agencies are not complying with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

The report, released to mark the first celebration of the Universal Access to Information Day, stated that the National Assembly which passed the bill that eventually became the FOI Act five years ago had also never complied with the provisions of the act.

The Act requires public institutions to proactively disclose certain information, including how many staff they have, their salaries, grade levels and many more. However, ‎the report found that this provision of the Act was not being complied with.

The report assessed compliance by public institutions in Nigeria with two key provisions of the Freedom of Information Act: Section 2(3 &4) relating to the provision on Proactive Disclosure—and Section 29 (1,2 &3) obligating an FOI Annual Submission to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).‎

‎In a statement which accompanied the report, the association’s National Co-ordinator, Ene‎ Nwankpa, pointed out that‎ “44 public institutions who submitted FOI annual reports in 2016, represent just a fraction of over 800 public institutions in existence”.

She said ‎an assessment of the websites ‎of 43 out of the 44 public institutions that submitted FOI annual ‎reports to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in 2016, indicates a below average compliance mark with the proactive disclosure provisions.

“The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) is the only institution with a dedicated FOI portal for receiving and responding to electronic FOI requests and publishing information”, she added.‎‎

The report indicates ‎a decline in the submission of FOI annual ‎reports by public institutions to the AGF. While 60 institutions out of 800 submitted such reports to the AGF in 2015, only 44 submitted in 2016.

“Even ‎the National Assembly that enacted the FOI Act in 2011 has till date never submitted an FOI annual report to the AGF since the law was passed,” said Mrs. Nwankpa.

‎”As an oversight institution that receives FOI ‎reports made by public institutions through the AGF, it has become questionable whether the National Assembly has the legitimacy to ‎hold any public institution accountable for non-compliance”.

Right to Know called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Head of Civil Service to ensure compliance ‎with the law, saying that it would help his fight against corruption tremendously.

“I think the president has a lot to gain if he enforces compliance with FOI Act having made the fight against corruption the pillar of his administration”, Ms. Nwankpa said.

She also called on the ‎government to put in place sanctions for defaulting public institutions to enforce compliance with the FOI Act.

She noted that the FOI Act was‎ one of ‎the most potent systemic tools‎ which could be used to support the current administration s anti-corruption policy.

 

An Opportunity to Reform the Nigeria National Assembly

The National Assembly is constitutionally mandated to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country. It is also responsible for executive oversight and passing the country’s budget. Therefore, as civil society organizations, we are committed to ensuring that the nation has a credible and functional National Assembly that works for all Nigerians. Lack of accountability in the National Assembly is very dangerous for our democracy because those who are elected to provide oversight over the executive arm’s implementation of our budget cannot be expected to provide leadership and ensure accountability when they have refused to be accountable with resources allocated to them.

Background

Over the last 3 years, the National Assembly has refused to respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and a court order to provide its detailed budget. Since the 8 th Assembly was inaugurated, both the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives have promised to make the details of the National Assembly spending public. They are yet to do so. It is against this back-drop of a failure to be accountable in something as basic as a budget, that our National Assembly has been rocked from one crisis to another including trying to gag social media; pushing a bill that would seriously undermine the work and independence of civil society and thereby violate constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association; purchasing new cars at exorbitant prices; fraud allegations against the Senate President that has paralyzed proceedings on several occasions; deliberating immunity and life pension for its leadership when they already get a gratuity after every term; and a possibility that they’ve violated the Constitution by not sitting the requisite number of days.

The Allegations

The most recent crisis are the allegations and counter-allegations between Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, former Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and Mr Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker, other principal officers and 12 other members of the House of Representatives on a flawed budgeting process and the haphazard allocation of constituency projects that are less about the communities’ needs and more about the legislators’ wants. Mr Jibrin and Mr Dogara were approached to meet with civil society organizations to provide context to the various reports in the public domain. Mr Jibrin agreed to meet and Mr Dogara’s office responded that he had publicly denied all allegations. 2 Allegations requiring urgent answers and clarifications are:

1. Amendments to the Budget We are clear that the constitution empowers the legislature to make additions, subtractions and deletions in the budget estimates presented by the executive, but not arbitrarily, without the consent of all members and definitely not in a manner that enriches individuals and is detrimental to the citizens they were elected to represent. It has been alleged that amendments were made to the budget by a few officers including Mr Jibrin, as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, without the knowledge of other members of the National Assembly.

2. Constituency Projects N100 billion of the budget is surreptitiously allocated to constituency projects – zonal intervention projects. These funds are usually shared equally on a zonal basis between the 6 geopolitical zones. It has been alleged that N40 billion was shared by the principal officers for their constituencies to the detriment of other constituencies.

3. Fraud and Misappropriation of Funds It has been alleged that insertions of over 2,000 projects worth N284billion were made in the budget; National Assembly members are living above their salaries; there is wasteful procurement; and there is secrecy in the management of the finances of the House of Representatives.

4. Controversial Allowances It has been alleged that 10 principal officers have received over N10 billion in illegal allowances since 2007.

Rebuilding the National Assembly There is something fundamentally wrong with how the National Assembly discharges its legislative and oversight duties. At the heart of these allegations are corrupt enrichment, conspiracy to act corruptly, embezzlement, diversion and misappropriation of public funds for lavish lifestyles, abuse of office and public trust. It is of great concern to Nigerians that members of the National Assembly do not know the content of their own budget, yet they hold court over how the budget of the country is spent. Public auditing of spending by the National Assembly and several reports on allegations of corruption that have been investigated remain shrouded in secrecy. This does nothing for an institution that seeks to be ‘responsive, accessible, representative and accountable’. The fact that the House of Representatives was not reconvened to address these allegations and Nigeria’s weakening economy speaks volumes of the importance that our lawmakers place on these issues. Furthermore, on resumption, they have chosen to focus on voice votes, shouts of solidarity, personalization of issues and rowdy sessions rather than making their books open to confirm or dismiss the allegations raised above.

Given the seriousness and gravity of allegations against the House leadership in particular, the outcome of any investigation under the leadership of the current principal officers of the House would not meet the threshold of an effective, transparent and independent investigation. The budgets of the National Assembly, the National Judicial Commission (NJC), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), amongst others, are a first line charge. As such, it is not necessary for these institutions to provide a detailed breakdown of their budget as part of the annual budgeting process. This is a great disservice to Nigerians as it does nothing for transparency and accountability.

Our Recommendations 1. The Principal Officers in the House of Representatives and the Senate should step down from their roles pending the conclusion of investigations and court cases. The principal officers in both chambers have spent an inordinate amount of time defending themselves while the business of lawmaking and executive oversight suffers. The only reasonable option is for the named principal officers to step down for an effective and transparent investigation because our country cannot afford this distraction especially with the current economic recession. 2. An Open Investigation of these Allegations We have read reports in the media of the investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into the allegations regarding the House of Representatives. We encourage the Commission to conduct this expeditiously and ensure prosecution of those in violation of the laws of the country. It is also important to note that the Department of State Security (DSS) has no jurisdiction in this matter based on the allegations thus far and it should be mindful that its involvement does not provide parties in the matter with the opportunity to challenge the legal validity of any criminal charge that might arise from its intervention using the premise of a flawed investigation process. 3. Zero-Based Budgeting and Citizens Involvement in the Budgeting Process Spending public funds on vague line items like ‘Youth Empowerment’ to the tune of N450 million and ‘Strategic Youth Empowerment’ to the tune of N500 million is ludicrous! The budgeting process needs to include budget details not just estimates. In addition, the technical capacity of the Budget Office in the National Assembly should be enhanced. 4. Reform Constituency Projects To ensure that the provision for constituency projects is not used as a conduit to siphon funds, it must be integrated into the budgeting process from the MDAs, based on a needs assessment in the constituencies and consulting the legislators who represent those constituencies. 5. An Open National Assembly – #OpenNASS The National Assembly should: (1) Publish its detailed 2016 budget; (2) Scrap voice voting and use the e-voting system already installed; (3) Activate the switchboard in the National Assembly complex so citizens can engage their representatives; (4) Ensure the National Assembly’s website is updated regularly with bills and contact information of members; (5) Provide an online attendance register for plenary sessions. Finally, we would like to reiterate that if the allegations are found to be true, the 2016 Budget should be amended accordingly in line with the law and the constitution which remains the pillar from which this government gets its powers.

76% of Nigerians Actively Support Open Government Policies and #OpenNASS is a Panacea for Transparency and Accountability

The OpenNASS Project is an advocacy campaign aimed at tackling the major disconnect between the elected representatives and the general voting population outside of the electoral process by providing both voter education and a communication platform to help voters reach their representative and demand the ‘dividends of democracy’ – education, health care, shelter, water, power, access to employment or finance for enterprise etc. We conducted a scoping survey randomly selecting telephone numbers and collecting 1,200 responses to 39 questions between June 29 and July 4, 2016. The sample was recalibrated to get a 48-52 gender split, and proportional representation by geo-political zone. The survey was run in five languages – Yoruba, Pidgin, Igbo, Hausa and English – to ensure it was inclusive. Each respondent was asked 27 multiple choice questions relating to the governance and democratic processes in Nigeria to understand the level of civic education, and if there was a link between this and a willingness to support the OpenNASS campaign. The results were fascinating.

Levels of Civic Education  On average, 59% of respondents got the answers right, although it varied greatly for each question ranging from 29% to 89%.

 There was a small gender gap with the average man getting 61% of the answers right, and 56% for the average woman.

 Unsurprisingly, the biggest difference was in knowledge based on education level. Respondents with no formal education got 43% of answers right; followed by those with a basic education at 45%; junior or secondary education at 54%; and those with a tertiary education getting 66%.

 Respondents scored the highest on questions relating to elections which would indicate that efforts to educate voters in the recent elections were successful.

 Respondents did barely better than random when it came to questions relating to how the upper and lower chambers relate to each other and drafting and passing laws.

 There is a huge opportunity to better educate Nigerians to empower them to push for change

Political Engagement

 Nigerians are very politically engaged with only 4% of respondents on average reporting that they do not care about political news. There is higher political apathy amongst those with no education, with 23% stating they do not care about political news, versus 3% of more educated respondents.

 There is a huge opportunity here to educate those with little to no education on the importance of good governance to build momentum for change.

 Political apathy is highest with 10%, among respondents who fall below 17 years and lowest, 0%, among persons 56 years and above.

Open Government Policies

 74% of Nigerians support electronic voting.

 71%% of Nigerians support opening National Assembly attendance records.

 The same pattern of responses was recorded for the other open government policies which include voting records, salaries and budgets of the National Assembly.

 There is clear correlation with educational attainment and open government policies as 81% of those with tertiary education stated that attendance records should be open, with only 32% of those with no formal education requesting the same. This again, presents a huge opportunity to educate and build support.

Sources of Political News

 Radio is the most popular source of political news with 33% citing this as their preferred source.

 Internet follows with 29%; TV with 17%; and newspapers with 11%.

 Radio was the most popular among females followed by the internet and the reverse is true for males where internet is the most popular source followed by radio. This could perhaps be explained by the lower rates of literacy amongst women.

 Television remains the third most popular source of political information with both genders and across all political zones.

 Radio emerges as the most popular source with people of most educational backgrounds except people who have attained tertiary education whereupon internet overtakes radio as the most common source and followed by radio.

 Radio is, perhaps unsurprisingly, preferred by respondents who don’t have a formal education at 42%; those that have a basic primary education at 60%; and those that have a secondary education at 40%.

Radio is therefore a crucial way of reaching people and EiE has gone from one radio program in 2014 to four in 2016 and by Q1 2017, we will have 9 radio programs in Lagos (2), Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Owerri, Kano & Enugu. What Next? It is clear that despite low levels of civic knowledge there is already huge support for EiE’s #OpenNASS campaign, especially with regards to making the breakdown of the 2016 National Assembly budget public after several promises and assurances to do so by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Lack of accountability in the National Assembly is very dangerous for our democracy because those who are elected to provide oversight over the executive arm’s implementation of our budget cannot be expected to provide leadership and ensure accountability when they have refused to be accountable with resources allocated to them. Over the last 3 years, the National Assembly has refused to respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and a court order to provide its detailed budget. The National Assembly was recently taken to court by SERAP for failing to respond to an FOI request about its running costs. It is of great concern to Nigerians that members of the National Assembly do not know the content of their own budget, yet they hold court over how the budget of the country is spent. Public auditing of spending by the National Assembly and several reports on allegations of corruption that have been investigated remain shrouded in secrecy. This does nothing for an institution that seeks to be ‘responsive, accessible, representative and accountable’.

The budgets of the National Assembly, the National Judicial Commission (NJC), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), amongst others, are a first line charge. As such, it is not necessary for these institutions to provide a detailed breakdown of their budget as part of the annual budgeting process. This is a great disservice to Nigerians as it does nothing for transparency and accountability. For example, between 2006 and 2016, approximately N1.3 trillion has be allocated to the National Assembly (~ $4.2 billion) and there are no records of how most of this monies were spent. #OpenNASS has been a very active conversation on social media and we’ve expanded the conversation through newspaper infographs and radio programs. We will be increasing our engagement using mobile technology and additional media platforms to enable Nigerians to get engaged, informed and most importantly, take action. A toll-free line is now available for citizens to sign the petition on the National Assembly budget breakdown and get other information on governance issues. The ‘flash’ service toll free lines to call are 08139861001 and 08139861002. ‘Flash’ service meaning upon dialing, the call drops up and calls you back immediately. The hotline is in English, Igbo, Pidgin, Hausa and Yoruba. Through the hotline and our engagements on social and traditional media, we will promote three advocacy goals: 1. The National Assembly should publish the breakdown of its 2016 and 2017 budgets; 2. Maintain a functional website, provide contact information of its members, activate the switchboard in the National Assembly complex so citizens can engage their representatives and make attendance records public; 3. Replace voice voting with electronic voting and making voting records public. The National Assembly is a critical institution in our democracy and we will ensure that it is repurposed to serve all Nigerians, not just a few. They are currently on recess until January and we encourage citizens to engage them at home and demand for accountability so they can start the new year delivering on their promise. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

ADC woos Emir Sanusi for next presidential election

The African Democratic Congress (ADC) has invited the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to use its platform to contest for the presidency in the 2019 election.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, National Chairman of the party, Chief Ralph Nwosu said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), “having demonstrated enough ineptitude going by the protracted crises within it, should be voted out in the next election while President Muhammadu Buhari appears not to get the grasp of how to move the country forward.”

Nwosu therefore said the next option available to Nigerians is to look for a capable person who can combine integrity with intellectual capacity to move the nation out of its present situation.

He noted that the ongoing controversy over the state of health of the president is “a mere excuse to cover the ineptitude of the government and its party while Nigerians are suffering. The ADC, having lost hope in Buhari and the APC, is inviting Sanusi to come and contest for the presidency on its platform in 2019.”

On why ADC prefers Sanusi, Nwosu said, “Sanusi has been very forthright in pointing out the ills within the government and systems across the nation. He has shown courage in a very thoughtful manner and has also refused to be intimidated.

“The government seems to be after him and you can see the shenanigan currently going on in Kano. They are making mockery of the corruption war and the nation-building project. People like Sanusi are critical to the Nigeria Project.”

He said the ADC “would approach the Emir to contest the presidency in 2019 no matter the outcome of the present brinkmanship within the corridors of power. For a greater Nigeria, we need men with knowledge and courage like the Emir.

“The likes of Sanusi would transform this nation if he is allowed to rule. When several northern leaders and politicians are busy in self-humiliation, he is out against the tide of deception to talk about critical issues facing the country and the calamities facing the North.”

The party noted that if Nigeria operates at the leadership the likes of Sanusi will provide, the sycophancy around the corridors of power will cease and Nigerians will see someone who has been part of the country’s traditional and corporate institutions.

On whether the decision to invite Sanusi was his personal idea, a consensus or due to the ongoing doubt over Buhari’s health, Nwosu said, “I speak for the party. In 2006/2007 we got Professor Pat Utomi to be a candidate on our platform while we also sent our team to Kano to invite Sanusi hoping that whoever wins our presidential primary would be the candidate while the other would be the running mate. Our desire was to truly transform the country and we needed men of integrity as our flag bearers.”

 

Obaseki charges NGOs to monitor Edo State government

Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki has urged civil societies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) operating in the state to keep an eye on the activities of his administration and offer constructive criticism.

According to the governor who spoke yesterday while receiving executive members of Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations (CONGOS), who paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House in Benin City, “it is by watching our every activity and offering advice that we can achieve what we desire for this state together.”

The governor urged the group to be exemplary because total independence, which would enable them positively check the government, was the hallmark of credibility.

He said: “NGOs should contribute in providing solutions to the challenges faced by the government or review the government’s activities to help them roll out policies that will better the lots of the people, but not to become critics of the government without the necessary facts”.

The governor said his administration would not expand the government, but utilize resources accrued to the government to improve the lives of the people of the state.

Obaseki also reiterated the commitment of his administration “to run a courageous and transparent government that will focus on human and physical development of the state.”

He told his guests, “We are not afraid; we are transparent and have nothing to hide from the people. My focus is to use the available resources to pursue my administrations programme and improve the lives of the Edo people who trusted us and elected us to power.”

Leader of CONGOS, Comrade Jude Obasanmi lauded Obaseki’s policies and success rate with these policies, while also applauding the governor for his tenacity and courage to ban revenue collection in the state, which had become worrisome and negative to the state’s image.

He said the governor was already addressing other important issues of concern to the group, adding that they were more prepared to be involved in the success story of his and called on the governor to establish Edo State Emergency Management Agency to enable the state take proactive steps against disasters.

Meanwhile, the governor has assured staff of Edo State Polytechnic, Usen that his administration would pay the 10-month salary arrears owed them, and would enforce prompt salary payment in the institution.

He said this as he received executives from the school’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) during which he noted that the blame for the school’s condition lie with both the government and the school’s administration.

“Most of the challenges faced by the Institution are not new to this administration. We have reflected on the issues and the position of this administration is to depart from the old ways of trading blames or doing things. Instead, we’ll work to ensure that things are done differently to take us away from the past,” he said.

The governor said his administration would set up a committee involving organised labour and the government to identify the cause of the problems faced by the institution and find ways to solve them.

His words: “We will have an agreement with you on the structure and modalities the school will be operating with, and also take a critical look at the master plan of the school to get the commitment of both the students and staff of the institution and ensure its progress.

“Any Council that cannot meet the obligation of payment of staff salaries will be removed and replaced. I want to assure you that your issue will be resolved this month, after which I will hold you responsible for any problems that surface in the institution again”.

CBN documents expose diversion of $141m for PMS importation

The House of Representatives’ Adhoc Committee investigating the review of price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) on Wednesday uncovered the diversion of $141 million special intervention forex allocation and 50,000 Metric Tonnes of premium motor spirit (PMS).

The Committee chaired by Nnanna Igbokwe also put on further inquiry the allocation of $120 million forex allocated by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Swift Oil and Gas for importation of PMS.

Speaking during the resumed public hearing which was adjourned due to the Easter recess, Igbokwe while interfacing with Chief Executive Officer of Sermont Petroleum on the throughput arrangement with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) retail.

Igbokwe who queried the authenticity of the documents on MT Ocean, Warri  presented by the company to the Adhoc committee, requested for details of the total forex accessed by the Sermont Petroleum apart from the $7.6 million.

The lawmaker who accused the company’s representative of lying under oath, however demanded for status report on the throughput with NNPC retail with all supporting documents, all applications to CBN and debit and credit records of dollar accounts and remittances of funds to suppliers offshore within 10 working days.

Worried by the development, Igbokwe mandated the Police attachee from anti-Fraud unit and Sergeant-at-arms to take formal statement from the company’s representative.

During the screening of the documents presented by Bonny Ogiri, General Manager of Vine Oil & Gas, the adhoc committee alleged that the 15,000MT of PMS discharged by MT Oceanic is yet to be traced some 2015.

Igbokwe who frowned at the conflicting records submitted by Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) adding that NNPC showed that the same PFI number reflect on the document for Ontario, Stallione and Vine Oil & Gas for the discharge of 20,000MT.

The Adhoc committee also queried the forex allocation to the company between 2015 and 2016.

Before adjourning, the Adhoc committee expressed concern over the $6.705 million and $7.350 million forex accessed by the company for importation of PMS while the documents obtained by the Committee showed that the product was supplied by NNPC.

While responding, Stilian Mitaker, Managing Director of Swift Oil explained that the company lost N60 million on interest accrued from the $6.705 million forex following the cancellation of the Letter of Credit (LC) obtained for the important in which was cancelled.

He added that the company also lost between N73 million and N74 million accessed from OICs through the CBN hence resolved to cancel the LC.

Mitaker who expressed frustration over the market challenges disclosed that the hike in the pump price of PMS was caused by the regulatory agencies NPA and NIMASA which demand for payment in dollars, as naira is not recognized use as legal tender, so we incur serious losses.

According to him, the lingering problem has continued due to delay in payment of forex differentials since 2014, devaluation of naira, among other factors adding that despite assurance given by the Minister of Petroleum to address the challenges, he noted that status quo remains.

While ruling, Igbokwe who disclosed that the Adhoc committee has issued with the 15 queries against the Company, noted that the company received up to $120 million forex from the apex bank, that required clarifications.

He however  assured Nigerians and all the oil marketers that the committed will address the challenges highlighted by the oil marketers.

Igbokwe who frowned at the level of corruption within the system, noted that some companies wrote the committee over the use of their company’s names to access forex for importation of PMS for which they have no knowledge about.

To this end, the Adhoc committee adjourned to Monday, 15th May 2017 for further investigation on the queries.

IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu meets South East Senators

Few days after his release from detention, leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, met with South East leaders in the Senate.

The meeting which held in the official residence of Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, in Abuja between Tuesday night and early hours of Wednesday was to allow the IPOB leader reunite with elite in the region.

The closed door meeting which had all South East Senators in attendance was said to have stressed the need for unity, peace and development in the South East region.

It was gathered that some key members of the caucus who met at the private residence of Ekweremadu extensively discussed what they called  looming political persecution.

At the meeting with Kanu were Ekweremadu, Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe, Theodore Orji, Andy Uba, Hope Uzodinma, Gilbert Nnaji, Sam Egwu and Sonni Ugbuoji.

It was learnt that prior to the release of Kanu, the caucus met at Ekweremadu’s residence, where the lawmakers reportedly made huge donations towards release of Kanu. The lawmakers, in one of the meetings, also named Abaribe to serve as one of the the sureties to Kanu.

Also on Wednesday, Ekweremadu raised an alarm on the floor of the Senate about an alleged plot by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to frame him up by planting huge amount of money in different foreign currencies in his house in Enugu.

Ekweremadu who raised the alarm by citing Senate Order 43 that deals with issues of ‘personal explanation’ declared that the plot to frame him up was to pave way for his forceful removal.

But hinting that he might be the first victim of the alleged plot to deal with the South East Senators, Ekwerwmadu alleged that there was a concluded plot by the EFCC to invade his country home in Enugu and other apartments within his senatorial district under the guise of searching for looted funds.

Ekweremadu who read a letter, reportedly written to him by an unnamed Nigerian, informing him of EFCC’s plots, said the anti-graft agency is also planning to ‘plant’ monies and ammunition in his apartment during the raid.

He said the move is to force him out of office and give the impression that he is a corrupt politician, unfit to hold any public office.

According to the Deputy Senate President, plans have also been perfected by the EFCC to use groups to protest in major cities across the country, calling for his resignation and prosecution.

Although Ekweremadu read the letter to alert him about EFCC’s plot to raid his residence at Wednesday plenary, it was not debated on the floor.

Economic bills to create 7m jobs – Saraki

Senate President Bukola Saraki has said the economic reform bills would create over 7million jobs in Nigeria if passed into law by the National Assembly.

He stated this on Wednesday in a chat with Senate correspondents to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

Saraki who also doubles as chairman of the National Assembly, reinstated the commitment of the Legislature in passing all the economic reform bills currently before it.

“Not many people know that the National Assembly’s Economic Priority Bills are gradually but surely making their way through the Senate. Last month, the report of the long-elusive PIB was submitted on the floor of the Senate — the farthest stage it has been in 17 years.

“While taken all together, all 13 of our economic reform bills are poised to reduce poverty in the country by double digits and create upwards of 7 million jobs. These are major milestones that would make the public proud of their representatives. Nigerians want to hear what this institution is doing for them in these times of economic uncertainty”.

Four of the economic bills were presented at Wednesday plenary. They include National Road Funds Bill, Federal Roads Authority Bill, Credit Bureau Services Bill as well as Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Bill.

The lawmaker also revealed that 185 out of 196 nominees have been cleared by the Senate, with 11 of them rejected.

The breakdown of the rejected nominees include: four from Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), three non-career ambassadorial nominees, one from Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), one nominee from the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and two from Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Supreme Court to end PDP leadership tussle?

Supreme Court to end PDP leadership tusslee

Barring any change in plan, the Supreme Court will, in the next two days, specifically May 4, 2017, hear the objection filed by the Ali Modu Sheriff national leadership against the hearing of an appeal brought before the court by the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

With the ferocity of the conflict, which has resulted in a recent failed truce between the two groups, there is the fear that the verdict of the apex court may not resolve the tussle.

The Makarfi-led committee filed an appeal with number SC.133/2017, on February 27, 2017, at the Supreme Court, challenging the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed Sheriff’s chairmanship.

Both the PDP and Sheriff had filed two separate motions at the apex court challenging the competence of Makarfi’s appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which restored Sheriff as the leader of the party.

The two motions dated March 16 and 21, 2017, are asking the apex court to strike out Makarfi’s appeal, on the grounds that he (Makarfi) does not have the authority to file the appeal on behalf of the PDP.  While the motion of the PDP was filed by Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), that of Sheriff was filed by Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN).

The two applicants in their separate motions are contending that by virtue of the Court of Appeal judgment, the issue of authentic leadership for the PDP has been settled.  The applicants are also contending that since the Makarfi-led leadership had lost at the appellate court, they have no legal standing to file any appeal on behalf of the PDP as an appellant in the suit.  They also insisted that the appeal filed by Makarfi had become incompetent having been filed without the authorization by the PDP or its leadership.

Meanwhile, the Makarfi faction, through its counsel, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) had filed a counter affidavit to the motions of PDP and Sheriff, praying the court to discountenance the two motions and allow the main appeal to be heard meritoriously.  Agabi is asking the court not to give audience to the Sheriff faction because it has no valid notice of appeal before the court and that being a party in Port Harcourt, they have right to bring the appeal before the court.

However, Justice Tanko Mohammed who presided over the five-man panel of the court had given the Sheriff faction 21 days within which to react to the counter affidavit of the Makarfi group and subsequently fixed May 4 to hear the two motions.

Issues that led to the current events cannot be recalled without reference to proceedings from the court of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja.  Decisions emanating from Justice Abang’s court over time have elicited controversies among both lawyers and non-lawyers.

Many had, as a result of the judgments of Justice Abang concerning the PDP leadership tussle, expressed ill-informed criticism for the judiciary, while others have concluded that decisions emanating from two judges of the same court, though different divisions, is a sign of lack of sound knowledge of law on the part of the judges.

However, whatever opinion people hold about the judge, the National Judicial Council (NJC) cleared him of any wrongdoing. NJC is the body charged with the responsibility of appointing and disciplining of erring judges in Nigeria.  The NJC said Justice Abang did no wrong in his June 29 ruling, where he endorsed a faction of the PDP, led by Sheriff, as authentic.

Justice Abang had on June 28, 2016, sacked the Senator Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the party.  The court in a ruling held that every action the Committee had taken since it emerged through a convention the party purportedly held in Port Harcourt on May 21, amounted to a nullity.

He held: “Parties have an uncompromising duty to obey court order until it is set aside. The Lagos Division made orders on May 12 and 20, forbidding the PDP from removing the Sheriff-led Caretaker Committee. That order is still subsisting.

“Having regard to the order of the court, PDP had no lawful authority to hold the convention that led to the emergence of the Markafi-led Committee.  The convention was unlawfully held and the Caretaker Committee was unlawfully and illegally appointed and could not take any legal decision for the PDP in view of the subsisting order of the Lagos Division of this court.

“Consequently, any action taken by the Markafi-led Committee, including the purported mandate for legal representation in this matter is hereby declared illegal.  If the Markafi-led Caretaker Committee, as apostles of impunity, missed their way to the Port Harcourt Division of this court, that court could not have conveniently assumed jurisdiction to set aside the earlier decision of the Lagos Division.”

The decision came after Justice A. M Liman of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court affirmed the Makarfi-led faction of the party as legal, following his emergence from the convention that was held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

Justice Abang held that the Port Harcourt Division of the court couldn’t make an order to neutralize the potency of the Lagos Division and added that he would have voided the Port Harcourt judgment for being a nullity if there was an application to that effect.  He therefore warned politicians not to cause disaffection among judges of the High Court saying, “the culture of impunity must stop in this country.”

Not satisfied with the judgment of the lower court, the Makarfi faction approached the court of appeal where he lost his position as chairman of the caretaker committee of the PDP.  The Appeal court nullified the PDP national convention in Port Harcourt, which established his committee and described the process that led to it as an abuse of court process.

Two members of the three member-panel, Justice B.G Sanga and Justice A.B Gumel, in their judgment said the convention disobeyed the court order and the court would not close its eyes on such illegality. They thus upheld the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba and set aside the judgment of Justice Muhammed Liman. Delivering the lead judgment, Sanga said that PDP convention did not follow the provisions of Article 47(3) of its Constitution in the removal of the Sherrif-led National Working Committee.

According to him, the process of passing a vote of confidence was not observed for Sheriff or the committee as provided by the said article and the national working committee was not put on notice. He stated that Justice Mohammed Liman held in error when he said the appellant committed abuse of court process by postponing the PDP convention.

On his part, Justice Gumel, who is also the Presiding Judge of the court, stated that the preliminary objection filed by the PDP was incompetent. He held that Sheriff and his executive could not be removed until August 2017, except the party held an election.

Gumel described the originating summons in the suit at the Federal High Court as over-reaching, and ordered the parties to maintain the status quo. The judges said that the convention disobeyed a court order and that the court would not close its eye to such illegality.

The court awarded N100,000 to Sheriff, to be borne by the nullified national caretaker committee’s Chairman, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector-General of Police and Department of State Service (DSS).

Meanwhile, the third member of the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt, Justice T.S. Orji-Abadua, upheld Justice Mohammed Liman’s judgment, saying that the Port Harcourt convention was legal. With the court of appeal judgment, Justice Abang was vindicated, not only from the hands of his petitioners, but also from the Saulawa-led panel, which was alleged to have ignored facts before it and went further to descend on the personality of the judge.

Some lawyers, while reacting to the judgment of the court of appeal commended the judges. An Abuja based lawyer, Lenox Kachina, who commended the court of appeal panel said, it will go a long way to put an end to the impunity by politicians who take delight in rubbishing the court.

According to him, “There is this thing about politicians, once a judgment or ruling is not in their favour, the court is bad but once it is in their favour, the court is good.

“This is a very clear issue, a Federal High Court in Lagos had given a verdict over the leadership of the PDP but instead of appealing the verdict, they choose to go to another court of coordinate jurisdiction in Port Harcourt. The court of appeal should be commended on this one,” he added.

Despite this, the Makarfi faction had filed an appeal at the Supreme Court and as it stands now, only the apex court would give the final verdict on the conflict, especially as the reconciliation parley recently initiated by former president Goodluck Jonathan failed to record any success.

Mandela, Tutu encouraged me to contest presidential election, says Obasanjo

Mandela, Tutu encouraged me to contest presidential election, says Obasanjo

Mandela, Tutu encouraged me to contest presidential election, says Obasanjo

Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday disclosed that he sought advice from the late South African President, Nelson Mandela and renowned Reverend Desmond Tutu, another South African statesman before deciding to contest the 1999 presidential election.

Obasanjo who spoke in Abeokuta explained that after his release from prison in 1999 over his alleged involvement in a fathom coup, he became confused when people started putting pressure on him to contest the country’s presidency.

With this scenario, he sought advice from Mandela and Tutu who encouraged him to contest.

The former president spoke during a thanksgiving service, organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ogun State chapter as part of activities marking his 80th birthday, which falls on Sunday, March 5.
Obasanjo told the congregation which included politicians, traditional rulers, clerics, top government officials and a cross section of the society that God had been “partial” to him in the manner he has favoured him.

He stressed that he didn’t deserve the favour God had shown him to achieve his modest achievement in life.

Obasanjo recalled, “ When I came out from prison for an offence I didn’t commit and people started putting pressure on me to be Nigeria’s President, I was confused but in that confusion I sought advice. I went first to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela said Olu, whatever your instinct tells you, follow it.

“God have been so partial to me by showing me much favour to achieve what I didn’t deserve. God has done for me much more I deserve. I praise God and I thank God for this.”

Governor Ibikunle Amosun in his brief remark described Obasanjo as an exemplary leader, saying he means a lot to so many people.

Represented by his Deputy, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga, he said the people of the state are proud to have him as a citizen of the state.

In his sermon, Bishop Oke described Obasanjo as a great man who God raised for the greatness of Nigeria.

His words: “In every generation, God raises a man for his people. Like Abraham, Joseph, Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Peter, and Paul, baba (Obasanjo) is a hero God raised for our generation.”

He said though Obasanjo had retired from the helm of affairs in the country, he was still working silently.

The clergyman said Obasanjo had laboured to see a new Nigeria, praying he would live long to see a better and new Nigeria.

He admonished Obasanjo to seek forgiveness from God, forgive every individual that had offended him from the heart as well as to bring close his associates to school and motivate them so that they would build on his legacy.